Calvin SCS —Summer 2007—Day 2
June 26, 2007
Reading: Anthony Marx, Faith in Nation (OUP, 2005)
Note: Here begins a daily account of our Seminars in Christian Scholarship seminar on Liturgical Identities: National, Global, and Ecclesial. Members of the seminar are identified only by initials. The notes are my own and doubtless reflect my own particular understanding or lack thereof. Caveat lector!
Chad’s summary. Anthony Marx has two targets: Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner. His thesis: each depends on liberal way of narrating nationalism as emergence of an inclusive body politic. AM rather narrates nationalism as an attempt by an elite to encorporate masses. AM begins with 1492 Spain. Five things happened that year: (1) Christians completed conquest of formerly Muslim Spain (which was made possible (2) by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella 23 years previous which consolidated kingdoms); (3) the Jews were expelled by the Inquisition (which 14 years ago was given by the Pope to the monarchy to administer); the first vernacular grammar was published in Spanish; (5) Columbus departed for the west (Marx 2003, 3). Early nationalism understood by Marx as political drama in which an emerging state is looking for a partner. States are impotent by themselves. CP suggests this analogy: states are cult and nation is culture. The challenge is how to get masses to have "faith in nation"? Nationalism is the tool for generating collective soul and the linking of political culture to new cult. Thus state secures legitimacy on monopoly of coercion. This narrative runs counter to Rousseau (author of the dominent liberal narrative) who says shared ancestry gives rise to ???. This assumes the individual over the community. AM wants to push the origins back to 16th century religious tensions as generators of nationalism. There is no unifying group consciousness except that generated by elites. Much therefore turns on forgetting alternative solidarities. State requires nationalism to forge political body. But how to construct corporate will? The possibility comes from Protestant challenge to unity of catholic church (CR: what of Luther and Calvin on individual and collective will?). The disruption in liturgical identities generates possibility of new kind of liturgical identity. The pre (again Anderson and Gellner) that all this (the rise of nationalism) is social contract and society based and that no state action was needed is critiqued. Rather the mechanism of bringing them together is the state. This is also prior to consolidation of capitalism, contra Gellner. Anderson’s appeal to imagination ignores institutional power. More positively, AM’s argument is identity/difference: nationalism is exclusive because cohesion emerges out of conflict. Outsiders defined as untrustworthy if friends and evil if enemies. Thus inclusion is built on exclusion. Religion and early nationalism are different because liturgical identities not formed by state boundaries at all. All such boundaries are radically relativized. The loss of universality of church makes divisions tools for new secular form of allegiance. Nations are fragments of a lost catholicity. Religion is generator of sentiment of nationalism. Historians of nationalism participate in nation-building by forgetting the memory of past troubles. Thus selective amnesia is practiced by elites and masses. CR’s response: in support: idea of artificial body displayed in woodcut on original cover of Hobbes’ Leviathan. The King’s two bodies relates to the two natures of Christ, which is not dealt with. The separation of the two bodies (corpus mysticum and corpus verum) creates problem picked up in Luther and Calvin. Questions about earlier religious conflicts. How far back to go? What of 14th century peasant revolts? A final thought: what does this say to us about current divisions in the church?
Discussion: Civic and ethic nationalism as foundational dyad. JR: religious conflict as legitimatizing state action and resolving. Religious is source of violence and state is source of peace (Cavanaugh’s work on the Wars of Religion). MB: the story that liberalism tells to itself is a modern version of 1 Samuel (we want a king like the other nations), though the causality is probably the reverse. Early state-making agencies are more like protection rackets. SL: c.f. Rorty’s cautionary theory of truth: "no one knows how to resolve differences of doctrine" (which is not true: the church does know how to resolve such differences; it’s just that Rorty doesn’t like the method). Liberalism requires Christians to not resolve doctrinal differences. MB: problem of legitimacy. Does he create this himself. CD: the Preface is full of anxiety. He’s trying to avoid Hegelian-Marxist dialectic (e.g. p. 19). Note the phrase "dark age" on p. 18. We should avoid historical determinism, yes. but … MB: there is a remarkable change that has to be accounted for. In the mid-1400s there are about 500 political entities in Europe. Within 200 years, 500 becomes 50. SW: Note that the state is a top-down institution. MB: The definition of the state presupposed by Marx is Weberian. You are a state if you are treated as a state (i.e. recognized by other states). SW: Wallerstein’s idea that capitalism encompasses state-system. SL: The originality of Marx’s argument is that the state constantly creates a national identity through an act of selective forgetting. He turns on its head the dichotomy between state and civil society. If Marx is correct, civil society has been constituted by the state, not the state by civil society. [SM: this could segue to Mbeki’s attempt to coopt the churches]. States need resources. You can’t tax peasants (too dangerous). Early capitalism centralizes commerce, which solves the problem.
MG: what makes Marx’s narrative possible now? CP: States are renegotiating their power currently. CD: We need to problematize Tilly’s notion of a necessary relation of state and capitalism. Pierre Manent said you don’t go to war against your trading partners. MB: WW1 plays havoc with that thesis (trade was never greater than in 1914). JR: is it useful to distinguish different kinds of things called states? Should we spend more time on the different histories in ch. 2? Another question concerns the "victim narrative" of the church. The people are seen as as dupes, malleable. MB: The theological status of natural communities is important. Is it self-evident that there are certain groups drawn toward each other? Or is it constructed… and what theological status does this have? CP: contrasts Anderson’s (after W. Benjamin) Angel of History with St Bartholomew: a man canonized by faith but living in the world. One of the 12 apostles: founder of catholic faith and secular institution of church. He was also martyred (flayed with skin hanging off). CD: so Bartholomew vs. Benedict. SL: western liberal democracies identity constituted by exclusion (O’Donovan: politics is the art of exclusion). Is there a scapegoat mechanism still operative in US? BP: the liberal story as a reversal of augustine’s founding story of Cain v. Abel.
What does Marx say to the church? SW: Marx’s picture of world as one of conflict, violence, manipulation. Is there a way to be inclusive and preserve identities. LA: We have to acknowledge the myth of one united church under Jesus, with the external enemy of Jews and internal enemy of heretics. Why are we all of a sudden (after so many years of this legacy) against exclusion? Is it because we don’t care anymore? CP: Williams on heresy is helpful: heresy is dangerous because it excludes conversation. MB: Is exclusion in ecclesial terms analogous to what Marx is talking about? After all the invitation is open… you exclude yourself (at least in the early church), unlike in the nation. PH: The heritage in the US South. State-building as exclusive. Jesus is always on the borders. How do we remember in Eucharist both Jesus’ death and the exclusions of the world? SL: Note the way inclusive identities are precisely used to exclude. Are all identities therefore exclusionary? Do we not then need to move away from form (that there is exclusion) to content (why and how there is exclusion)? What is the truth content of the exclusion? CD: Volf’s analysis is problematic at this point. His idea of otherness premised on an abstract other. Otherness is never concretized. For Levinas otherness always calls self into question. But who is my other? I can’t answer the question without particularity. I have to judge who is my other (which necessitates ontological claims)… and that’s violence. Christians get their particular identities at the altar rail. GC: Ricoeur’s polemic against Levinas is instructive. In our very being there is otherness. Reciprocity of recognition is that it’s mutual. SL: Derrida’s "other" takes away the ability to act in here and now: if I feed my cat I have violated my obligation to all other cats in the world. In sleeping with my wife I’m excluding.… LA: The problem with any identity is in its totalizing. We have multiple identities. MG: That’s still formal, though. The assumption is that these identities will be conflictual. SW: Bible’s multiplicity not exclusionary (the eschatological journey toward the worship of lamb has as its end the healing of the nations—through the edenic tree and the tree of the cross). SL: Here’s the question: does the nation have a role in the divine economy? At the end of Revelation there is both inclusion (gates never shut) and exclusion (there is an outside). KM: The truth is not violent.
CD: What are the modes of production that make identity? Identity is always in-formed by something outside itself, but identity is a static concept. Hegel: identity is an "in itself". Difference is non-identical repetition. For christians, identity is on the move. It’s not static. MB: In the early church… while there was difference, there was also a commonality that "chose us". Augustine’s fall involved humans and angels. KS: Jesus. Jews and gentiles. What is it that makes israel a nation? How are the gentiles grafted in (to a nation)? BP: what does it mean when St. Peter repeats Exod 19? SL: Both Barth and Balthasar say nation has no role in divine economy. Barth on the 10 commandments acknowledges natural communities (e.g. family)… but observes there’s no command about nation. For von Balthasar, nation is not "theological person". GC: For Badiou Jesus is the exception (a Jew rejected by Jews), which makes him a "singular universal". SL: But how does that differ from Kant and Harnack? JR: Jesus in the "bounce" from particular to universal is non-violent. MB: Richard Hays says the church is not an affinity group, but "God’s gamble" … SW: We need to distinguish not just the "other", but the enemy (e.g. the Samaritans). SL: I’m always waiting to meet this "other". But enemies… that’s different. KM: Salvation is being worked out by a God who is faithful (to the Jews). So we have to be careful that the church doesn’t swallow the nation. AS: Go’im is the Hebrew word translated "nation". But it simply means "people".
MB: Does Marx’s argument change our theological interpretation of the Reformation? JR: The politicization of religion is a consequence of the reformation. MG: The politicization of religion is a problem, whatever the fall narrative you choose (Scotus, Constantine). MB: Is the Reformation the problem or the solution (MG and to which problem?)? SL: The Reformation’s idea of invisible church delegitimates papal power but as Cavanaugh writes the crucial division happens a century earlier with the distinction between corpus verum and corpus mysticum. The Reformation is a correction to the fetishization of the Eucharist. But consider Hugo Rahner’s dictum: "all churches that seek to free themselves from the magisterius first seek refuge with the nation-state, and then fall with it." Can you have a transnational religious identity without a magisterium to sustain it?